I walked through a deserted, derelict farm house earlier this week. It had a strange effect on me. As I wandered through the few rooms I wondered what her life had been like here. The woman who I knew had lived here. Raising her family with her man.
What did she dream each day as she looked out the window from her small kitchen sink? Did she see the beauty of the eucalypts or the setting sun as I did as I gazed out the time soiled panes of glass in the louvres? Or was it more of the same? Was the beauty and wonder of the bush washed out by the trials and expectations?
Did she dream of travel and adventures in far away places as I often do? Or did she drift into herself with a sense of contentment at having a harmonious home, a constant man, energetic kids and the life on the farm? I wondered what her life was like. To be a country woman. Defender of her hearth and chicks against the ravages of society – the wool price crashes, the flooded causeways which disabled all movement, the searing heat which debilitates everyone, the bush fires rushing to too close, the frozen water pipes in winter, the survival banquet to be made for the shearers without letting the family go without, the expectations of all that she would cope through it all – not matter what life metered out to her.
I walked through the now dust laden house. An old key hanging out of the back door. I wondered at a plank of wood which seemed to have a precious sense about it. What did it hold up? Maybe it protected the floor? Why did she have that there?
The kitchen cupboards hang open – gasping for cans, and packets and attention – to be important again. To hide treats from the kids or that treat for her when it all seemed too much. They seemed hungry for life. But it won’t happen again – she’s gone – and I’m there – a stranger. An intruder of time and space. An invader of different ideas and expectations – but curious of the ones that went before. Were they more satisfying than the insatiable, cyber dreams that drift across my screens? Was she more satisfied with a role and a home and a connection to place than my urge to explore all possibilities in the impossible space of a lifetime?
I walk outside. Everything is falling apart. The gutters. The verandah. The windows. The screen door. The water tanks. The chimneys. The floor boards. The cladding.
Yet it still seems to hold memories; tentatively, slowly leaking like the tanks but there is still a sense of good times; of laughter, of homeliness, of family and life.
The shearing shed has been used until relatively recently. There is still a tangle of modern dreams, hard work and confusion on the floor. The wire mesh between classing bays still hold the whispers of the shearers and classers and rousabouts and her. There is a stillness and peace which lingers on. There is no malice in a shearing shed – everyone is focused on winning against the rain and time. A team frantically supporting each other to claim victory – simple victory of a job well done. I like the feel of the shed. I find it calming. I am glad to be alone with this urgent peace. I muse at the equipment – the old and the new carelessly abandoned together – like generations forced to make peace over different ideas.
I walk outside to the rusted machinery. I have no idea of the vintage of all these pieces of twisted metal. Some seem recent with tyres still under pressure. Others with wheels of steel – I guess one hundred years old. Long abandoned for more comfortable rides on the petroleum wave. The grass fed wave of Clydesdales and sweat gone. I muse over the possible use of a saw bench. I know I would have been armless within minutes if I’d had to operate it. But I enjoy walking amongst the fallen time warriors who once helped make a living on this land.
I walked back to the present along the shiny fence line. Back to the computers and phones and autopost blogs and Skype to Vancouver or Nairobi and chlorinated water and packages of preservatives and fatigue.
I wondered if she would have felt sorry for me?